Animal Assisted Therapy
Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is lead by a health-care professional with a client for a goal as determined by the health personnel in consultation with the Therapy Dog Handler. The outcome of the session is documented in the file or chart. An example of this might be an Occupational Therapist working with a client to improve mobility in an arm or hand. The Handler places the dog for ease of petting or grooming. Retrieving exercises are done to strengthen arm movement. In each case the presence of the dog is motivational and makes the exercise both more interesting and fun for the clients.
Other health-care professionals involving AAT in their practices include physiotherapists, psychologists, speech language pathologists, recreation therapists, and RNs. Goals vary, depending on the discipline. Typical goals may include:
- increasing mobility and dexterity,
- behaviour modification,
- communication difficulties, and
- socialization and decreasing depression, anxiety, or aggression.
Ottawa Therapy Dog Teams work with all these professions in varying sites which include acute care hospitals, chronic care and rehab hospitals, long-term care facilites, retirement homes, plus assorted day programs which target various populations and their specific needs.
Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) is directed by a health-care professional working within the purview of his/her domain with a therapy dog team and a client, for a specific and goal-directed end, the outcome of each visit is documented by the health-care professional in the client's record or chart.
Domains in which we work include
Physiotherapy - therapy dog is positioned to help with upper body strengthening and mobility by being petted, groomed or playing retriever games.
Occupational therapy - therapy dog works with residents to help develop and strengthen fine motor development to achieve life skills to enable greater independence and self-worth in both rehabilitative settings or long-term care settings.
Therapeutic Recreation - therapy dog teams work to decrease social isolation, increase social activities, decrease depression, modify limiting behaviours by establishing the human animal bond and then working with clients to achieve goals as set by the Recreation Therapist.
Speech Language Pathology - the therapy dog becomes the focus of the therapy session to help people with communication disorders by pointing at parts of the dog, one word responses about the dog, multiple level commands to the dog, game-playing to demonstrate cognitive skills.
Psychology - therapy dog teams are referred to work with those with mental health problems to increase social skills, self-esteem and self-worth by doing training activities with the dog, walking and taking part in the care of the dog.
Geriatric staff and seniors playing and petting the therapy dogs contributes to reminiscing about dogs which stimulates memory, verbal responses and emotional well-being.
Special Skills staff working with those who are developmentally delayed. Therapy dog teams encourage improved social skills and social interaction in both individual and group work settings by doing dog-training exercises, grooming activities and playing dog-games.